Valley Forge is an unincorporated village on the Schuylkill River (about 45 miles west of Philadelphia). During the Revolutionary War, General Washington and his troops spent the winters of 1777 and 1778 there in bitter suffering from cold and hunger. These months were discouraging for the Americans.
American soldiers died there at the alarming rate of twelve per day, and a total of 2,500 soldiers died of cold, disease or hunger. Some of the soldiers were as young as 12 and others were as old as 60. To make matters worse, some soldiers were deserting.
The famous image of General Washington kneeling in prayer in the snow was at Valley Forge. Washington wrote in a letter:
To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lay on, without shoes, by which their marches might be traced by the blood from their feet ... and at Christmas taking up their ... quarters within a day's march of the enemy ... is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be paralleled.
Many soldiers who survived the winter left Valley Forge with a greater deal of maturity, drive, and determination for their experience.
The enduring image of perseverance on part of the Continental Army to win Freedom from the Empire was well known, even into the 20th century. President Ronald Reagan would frequently bring the topic up in his speeches as a reminder to Americans about who and what America is.